Editor’s note: Tech with Tom Kirkham is intended to provide practical information about a wide range of electronic products, software and communication issues. Tom has promised to use layman terms, where possible, and to avoid geeky acronyms unless using said acronyms are the build up to an off-color joke built largely around sophomoric innuendo. Seriously, this should be good stuff and it will post on Fridays (barring any breaking news from Steve Jobs or elsewhere in the Tech world). Enjoy.
An old maxim states “There are two kind of people that backup. Those who do and those who will.”
Backing up a computer has been imperative since the beginning of computing. Data becomes corrupted, deleted or lost, hard drives and other storage media fails, and computers themselves are lost and stolen. Without backups, this information is lost forever.
However, what is the best backup method? Some think that external hard drives or flash drives are good. Others use online backup solutions, and still others use floppy, cds, or tapes. Those in the latter group have more time and patience than I do. They will also require more luck in actually using the backup successfully, because these types of storage media wear out much more frequently and is subsequently more prone to failure just when you really need it.
This leaves us with 2 media/methods, removable media such as external hard drives and flash drives.
“What? Removable? I just leave it in the computer all the time, Tom. Why should I pull it out?”
But, suppose your computer is stolen, or the flash drive is stolen? What about tornadoes, fires, floods? In case you did not realize it, electronics do not survive extreme heat or wetness very well. They also tend to fly off for miles in tornadoes, landing in pastures for the cows to use.
“Tom, we take our flash/external/tapes/cds/floppys/adding machine tape to our safety deposit box so it is off-premise and safe.” And, I guess you also use armed transport to move the data too? Did I just see your bookkeeper in Wal-Mart? Was that your flash drive that fell out of her purse and slid under the Rotel display unnoticed? Let’s not even getting into habits and actually remembering to go to the bank. And then there is the thing about restoring the data – is the bank open?
So what is the best method? For most users, either home or business, it is an online backup.
“But Tom, is my data safe on someone else’s server?” You bet it is. I mean it is much less risky than other methods, and here is why: First of all, the information is encrypted. Most providers encrypt the data before it leaves the premise at a minimum of 256 bit, which is a bit hard to break. Secondly, the servers themselves are secure from unauthorized access, from either the Internet or physically. Thirdly, these providers are in the business of protecting your data – the last thing they would want to do is share it with others. Besides, if someone really was interested in your data, I bet it would be a whole lot easier to just throw a brick through the window and do a smash and grab of your server, wouldn’t it?
So, which service is best?
For home users, Carbonite is a tough service to beat. For about $50 a year, you have unlimited storage, the backup software works continuously in the background, and you rarely have to worry about a thing. For business users, you might want to step it up a notch. Carbonite does not backup all file types, which can cause problems if you are expecting to do backups offsite of automated backups stored locally (you SQL Server types know who you are). Mozy might be a better alternative, or Kirkham Systems has a local online backup system designed specifically for business users. (Disclosure: I am the Kirkham in Kirkham Systems).
There are exceptions of course. Sometimes, the shear amount of data makes tapes the only realistic method, although with drive and Internet capacity continuously increasing, this is becoming less common. Also, there is nothing wrong with using multiple backups – in fact I recommend you do so. The more backups you have, the more likely it is that you will be able to restore your files.
Just do something. Now. Be one that does, not one that will.
Notes on Tom
Tom Kirkham is the publisher and co-owner of The City Wire. Tom also is host of the Tom Kirkham Show on Newstalk KWHN 1320 AM, which airs each Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. He also owns and operates Kirkham Systems, a computer, communication and networking company. Tom has more than 20 years of experience in business and technology, and claims to be a photographer, jazz lover, Cajun food expert and dog rancher.
You can reach Tom at email@example.com